The moral status of the non-sentient
Although DeGrazia's theory, when it is altered so as to admit the non-sentient into the realm of morality, provides a very compelling set of arguments which could underpin a theory of ecological justice, it is not the only possible approach. In this chapter we will be looking at the theories of two thinkers who, unlike DeGrazia, are prepared to admit that the non-sentient has some moral standing, and who offer alternative meta-ethical perspectives to that of DeGrazia.The latter's approach, as we noted, involves the concept of 'reflective equilibrium' associated with Rawls's method of moral theorizing. Mary Anne Warren, to whom we turn next, offers a pluralist approach, and Jon Wetlesen a casuistic one. We have seen some of the problems of reflective equilibrium, although the force of DeGrazia's arguments is not really diminished by the problems with the theory. Let us see how each of these other two theories fares.
Mary Ann Warren's theory
To the question of what it is that confers moral status upon any entity, Warren gives a complicated answer. In sum, she argues that there is no single property which all entities must possess in order to be the bearer of some degree of moral status (Warren 1997:146-7). Attempts to produce such accounts always exclude entities which moral common sense (of humanity) would wish to see included (ibid.: 21-2). Rather, the truth of the matter of moral status has to be put together out of the elements of truth which such unitary theories of moral status have succeeded in grasping (ibid.: ch. 6).A crucial distinction which structures Warren's account is that between:
|1 intrinsic properties, such as being alive; possessing consciousness; possessing sentience (a property different from consciousness); being the 'subject of a life'; possessing the capacity for rational agency; and|
|2 relational properties, such as being part of an ecosystem; being an important part of an ecosystem (a 'keystone' species, for example); being part of a human community; being the object of caring concern by moral agents; and being an endangered species (Warren 1997:122-3).|